Shawn O'Brien, CFA

Director, Retirement

Team page shawn obrien

About Shawn

Shawn oversees the Retirement practice at Cerulli Associates. In this role, Shawn oversees and mentors a team of analysts responsible for publishing research on the trends in defined contribution (DC) and IRA markets. Additionally, Shawn provides strategic oversight to Cerulli’s consulting projects focused on opportunities in the retirement space. Shawn frequently speaks at industry summits and conferences. Shawn is also responsible for overseeing the firm’s Data Analytics team.

Prior to joining Cerulli Associates, Shawn was a researcher at Harvard Business School where he co-authored case studies alongside professors Adi Sunderam and Luis M. Viceira focused on investment management for individual and institutional investors. Shawn started his career in investment operations at SSgA where he covered the firm’s equity collective investment trusts and institutional separate accounts.


  • Boston College
    Master of Science in Applied Economics
  • Merrimack College
    Bachelor of Science in Finance
  • CFA® charterholder

Honors and Awards

  • Quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Barron’s, Pensions & Investments, FundFire, and other industry-leading publications as a subject matter expert on the U.S. retirement market
  • Money Management Institute’s Leadership Pathway Program – Class of 2023
  • Winner of SPARK Institute’s 2022 Retirement Industry Rising Star Award

Areas of Expertise

  • Asset management and recordkeeping landscape within the U.S. retirement markets
  • DC-focused product development and distribution strategies
  • Advice and product innovation trends in the DC market
  • Trends in DC participant decision-making and behavior

Recent Project Work

  • Led cross-company project management initiative to ensure timely delivery of relevant data and deliverables between Cerulli research practices throughout 2023
  • Co-branded white paper and industry event presentations on personalization in DC plans
  • Lead author of Cerulli’s U.S. Defined Contribution Distribution report

Learn More about the Retirement Practice

Cerull's U.S. Retirement practice captures evolving dynamics of the market across plan providers, plan sponsors, plan participants, and intermediaries.

Learn More

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